Monday, April 24, 2006

NFL Draft

The NFL Draft is fast approaching. Although I'll miss most of the draft coverage this year between a BBQ and an Ironman hockey tournament, I'm still excited to see how it all plays out.

I've been watching the Eagles draft tendencies for years under the Andy Reid/Joe Banner regime, so I have a pretty good idea what they're going to do in the first round. Of course, I'll probably be wrong, but I'll go out on a limb and put my predictions on the record anyway.

If the Eagles move up:
And they should, if one of these players is on the board at #11, and they can jump three spots for a 3rd-round pick:

Haloti Ngata, DT, Oregon - A mammoth defensive tackle with very unusual athletic ability for his size. Would instantly be a run-stopping presence in the middle of the Eagles' defense and free up Trotter to make plays. This is really an ideal fit, in spite of the fact that many 4-3 teams have downgraded him because of his size. He'd come off the field on third downs when newly acquired Darren Howard moves inside. He could go as early as #5 to Green Bay, or drop all the way to #12 for Cleveland, but he'll definitely not be around when the Eagles pick, unless they move up.

Brodrick Bunkley, DT, Florida State - A smaller, standard sized 4-3 DT with great interior quickness. I like him a lot for the Eagles. He'd become an interior playmaker who creates havoc behind the line of scrimmage. He won't free up Trotter the way that Ngata would, but he'll make a few plays on his own. Could go as high at #8 to Buffalo or #11 to St. Louis.

Winston Justice, OT, USC - I'm a bit tentative about Justice because his measurables are eye-popping, but his college production was mediocre. A young athletic tackle is a real need, however, with Jon Runyan aging and Tra Thomas suffering through chronic back problems. The Eagles jumped up in the draft once before for a lineman (Shaun Andrews) so if they have a high enough grade on this guy, they'll make the move. He could be picked between #10 and #13. I'd be shocked if he fell to the Eagles.

If the Eagles stand pat:
And they should, if the price to move up is higher than a 3rd-round pick:

Ernie Sims, OLB, Florida State - The Eagles have not once drafted a LB in the first round under Andy Reid, and I know they do not value the position highly. That makes this pick somewhat sketchy, but there's a lack of good options at #14. Sims would be a great will LB though, with his speed, and I'm hoping that Jim Johnson can talk them into snagging him here. Shawn Barber was signed to a 1-year contract to play the weak side, so the Eagles need a long-term solution, and Sims has that kind of ability. He'd get on the field as soon as he could pick up the defensive scheme.

If the Eagles trade down:
And they should, if none of those four players are on the board at #14:

Nick Mangold, C, Ohio State - The Eagles wanted LaCharles Bentley badly, so they are looking to upgrade at center. Widely considered the second-best OL in the draft, Mangold suffers a bit from the history of his position - only a handful of centers have been selected in the first round. They could drop down six spots and still safely pick Mangold.

Santonio Holmes, WR, Ohio State - A sexy pick in many of the mock drafts, I just can't see the Eagles going in this direction. They've picked a WR once in the first round during Reid's tenure, and that turned out to be a disaster. Reggie Brown looks like he could develop into a stud, and he was picked in round two. They need to use their first-round pick on someone that will contribute this year, and it's very unusual for rookie WRs to contribute, especially in the West Coast offense. It's much more likely that they'll grab a lower-graded prospect like Sinorice Moss, Brandon Stovall, or Jason Avant in rounds two or three.

Eric Winston, OT, Miami - The third-best tackle in the draft, but still a solid player. There's a huge dropoff after him, so if the Eagles want a tackle for the next ten years, they can't reach any deeper than Winston. Could be available all the way down to #25.


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